Masta Ace

Back to the Bay

April 19, 2016

I have so much love for Northern California. Each time I come back here I am struck by the unique beauty of the landscape. Towering trees with the deepest green leaves, awkward hills, azure skies, and curious fog soothe the heart and mind like nothing else. I flew back here last week and so far have mostly been catching up with family and friends, and exploring the city a little…

~Me before takeoff~

Me before takeoff

~Golden Gate Bridge from the sky~

Golden Gate Bridge from the Sky

~Angel Island~

Angel Island

~Market Street~

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The weather took a beautiful turn the past few days, so it’s been all about parks. I hit up Golden Gate Park on Saturday, feeling super calm and happy just to be there, and then chilled out on Dolores Park on Sunday for a pretty different vibe. Last time I was in SF, the park was being completely dug up, so it was good to see it back in swing. Dolores Park is like London Fields in the summer, but it feels quirkier and more entertaining. You get intermittent whiffs of barbeques and joints, sounds of champagne corks popping, and endless overheard conversations relaying gossip and dissecting therapy sessions. I love it.

~Golden Gate Park~

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~Amoeba on Record Store Day ~

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~Wax Poetics looking super fresh inside Amoeba!~

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~Me in Dolores Park on a hot-hot day~

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I’ve been hitting up my favourite yoga studio in SF, Yoga To The People , at 16th St & Mission. It’s on the fifth floor and has such great views of the city. It’s also all donation-based, so not super expensive like some spots, which, seems to be much more in line with the spirit of yoga to me.

I also discovered a new vintage shop called Wallflower on Valencia that I love and recommend checking out. It has a great selection of well curated seventies clothes and furnishings. Fly!


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I caught the Dam Funk show at 1015 Folsom on Friday which was tons of fun. It was my first time seeing The Whooligan from Soulection play, and he totally rocked the basement room.

~Dam Funk going in~

 ~Me about to head to the club~

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For an interview that was due to take place last week (yet to be re-scheduled, I’ll announce it once it happens ;) ), I spent some time researching Bay Area funk bands, so have been listening to Graham Central Station on repeat since. Right now this is my jam:

I’ve also been listening to a ton of G-Funk since I finally got around to watching Straight Outta Compton on the plane. I love the scene where they play out the release of Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline.” I didn’t rush to see it when it came out because I felt weird when I first saw the trailer (something about actors playing people who are still alive), but now definitely recommend watching it! Mega props to F. Gary Gray! Hip-hop nerd fact: Gray directed a ton of great hip-hop music videos before feature films like Friday, including the Masta Ace video for “Saturday Nite Live.” Shout out to my DV crew!

While wandering about I’ve been thinking about the many charms of San Francisco; how there are so many epochs to feel nostalgic for. One walk through the city can evoke so many different moods and feelings: you get a view across the water to Marin County and want to be attending a seventies cocktail party like something out of Play It Again Sam, or walk past a smoke shop to hear E40 playing and want to be at a Mac Dre party in Oakland, or you can walk around Haight Ashbury (just look past all the touristy trash) and wonder what it really was like to be a freewheeling Grateful Dead head back in the day. It’s like the Digital Underground song “Want It All” – which is about the wanting, not the having. Cities like this stimulate your imagination and trigger so many desires. But, of course, you can’t ‘have it all’ in the sense of living different lives simultaneously.

To this predicament I see three answers.

The first is summed up towards the end of Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog, where Ghost Dog states that it is impossible to return to the spirit of an age, and therefore we must embrace the present time’s spirit.

The other two thoughts are from my recent time in India:

If you believe in reincarnation, then all these different lives are either ones you have already lived or ones that are to come.

Or, if you contemplate how we already have everything in the universe within ourselves, any longings or desires can dissipate or transform into a truer feeling of peace. All the ideas, images, concepts etc, exist within your mind. Anything you can dream is already within you. Pretty dope huh?

~ Wisdom from Dog Eared Books in The Mission ~

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The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop

April 4, 2015

This Spring sees the publication of my first academic chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. The Companion, edited by Justin A. Williams, features a wide selection of Hip-Hop oriented essays from an array of contributors including Anthony Kwame Harrison, Adam Haupt, and Chris Tabron. I feel rather honoured to be a part of the collection, and also excited to see my work published in a book for the first time. My chapter “MC origins: rap and spoken word poetry” explores the shared history and facets of spoken word poetry and rap forms, with special case studies into the Black Arts Movement and the Good Life Cafe/Project Blowed.

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I met Justin A. Williams in 2011 while interning at the old Mixcloud offices on Featherstone Street, back when Mixcloud shared office-space with Drum&Bass Arena. Williams visited the then HQ to conduct fieldwork and speak to Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez. After being introduced, we began chatting about academia and geeking out about Hip-Hop…

As I had researched spoken word poetry and music in depth for my undergraduate dissertation, and was building up a portfolio of hip-hop interviews, Williams commissioned me to write a chapter on spoken word poetry and rap for his next project: The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop.

Over the following months I began incorporating research for my chapter into my writing projects, sneaking in questions about poetry and rap during many of my interviews. In reflection, I appreciate how many memorable experiences and ideas I have been fortunate enough to encounter and enjoy through working on this project. I can so clearly remember sitting outside on a sunny day in Oakland talking to Bay Area poet D. Scot Miller about the transcendental merits of Camp Lo and Q Tip, partying with Freestyle Fellowship in Hollywood, afternoons in various libraries across London and San Francisco with a mountain of books by my side, and all the times that listening to poetry and rap made me feel inspired and excited to be alive. I believe that expansion of the mind is a very beautiful thing, and feel fortunate to have spent time developing my understanding of art and expression relating to some of my very favourite music. In sharing my work, I hope that it can stir some thoughts and feelings, and that readers can ultimately take something from the chapter.

To all those who have have been generous with their time, allowing me to pester them with questions and abstract musings I am eternally grateful. In no particularly order I would like to thank: Justin A. Williams, David J. Pugilist, Amiri Baraka, D. Scot Miller, Freestyle Fellowship, SlimKid3, Abstract Rude, Robert Glasper, and of course all the musicians and poets who have made my world richer through discovering their work.

You can find the Companion here .

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Driving with Music

February 7, 2015

Back in 2012 I presented a paper on the work of Masta Ace at a ‘Music & Automobile Culture’ symposium held by IASPM-UK. My paper was titled ”Born to Roll’: An examination of jeep culture in the music of Masta Ace.’ I traced Ace’s career from his Juice Crew breakout to his time with Delicious Vinyl, noting the various ways that automobiles featured in and influenced his records, and how his position as an East Coast artist on the West Coast affected his work.

My research is being cited in a book, due to be published this Spring by Ashgate, titled ‘Driving with Music: Cognitive-Behavioural Implications’ by academic Warren Brodsky. You can see more here.

It is the first time my work is being referenced like this, so I am rather excited about it! Maybe one day I will do that Hip-Hop PhD …

Me and Ace

aceSittin on Chrome

Sittin on Chrome

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